Denise Jones meets her sponsored child, Saymi, during a artist tour in Ecuador. "Compassion is truly helping children like Saymi grow up to be leaders in their communities," said Denise.
On a dusty road in Ecuador, Saymi peers shyly through the fringes of her dark lashes. Her face lights up as she sees three women walking toward her. The six-year-old girl instantly recognizes one of the women from a photo that hangs in her home. For a moment, shyness keeps Saymi's feet planted. But soon she breaks into a run and leaps into the outstretched arms of the tall blonde woman kneeling before her.
Saymi doesn't understand that her sponsor, Denise Jones, and Denise's friends Shelly Breen and Leigh Cappillino are part of the award-winning Christian singing group Point of Grace. She doesn't know how many albums they've recorded or how many number-one songs they've had. She just knows that they came all the way to her tiny village in Agato just to see her.
Girls of Grace
Recently, members of Point of Grace traveled to Ecuador on a sponsor tour with Compassion International (their fourth member, Heather Payne, was unable to attend because of the recent birth of her son). Point of Grace became involved with Compassion when they started Girls of Grace, a weekend conference series that teaches teenage girls that a personal relationship with Christ is the only source of self-confidence and peace. The conference also promotes Compassion's Child Sponsorship Program. Each of the Point of Grace ladies also sponsors a child.
"We just really wanted to challenge the people attending 'Girls of Grace' to be charitable people," says Shelly Breen. "Teens in general have a lot of disposable income, but it usually goes to clothes and video games. We wanted to talk with them about giving back . about taking care of people around you who are poor and need help."
Shelly admits that she was skeptical at first about how the teens would react. She was amazed at the response and humbled at how God worked through the girls at the conferences.
"We brought all girl sponsor packs to the conferences so we could foster the notion of older girls helping younger girls," explains Shelly. "It was amazing! More than 400 people decided to sponsor a child during the Girls of Grace conferences, and it was a real testament to the hearts of these girls."
After seeing the incredible response, members of Point of Grace decided they needed to personally see Compassion's work so they could better inform their audiences.
"We have always been very careful to research the organizations we are involved with. We have been telling our audiences that Compassion was providing for the basic needs of children, but we knew that once we truly experienced Compassion firsthand we could talk about it from our hearts," says Shelly Breen.
While in Ecuador, Denise, Shelly and Leigh played with Compassion children in their homes, ate meals with them and their families, and visited villages tucked in the steep mountains of Ecuador. Leigh met her sponsored child, Celia.
"When I hugged Celia for the first time, I literally felt my heart beating in my chest," recalls Leigh. "I just couldn't believe I was standing there, in Ecuador, holding that sweet little girl! My family and I have had the privilege of watching Celia grow into a wonderful, beautiful girl. It was incredible to be able to see the things she does, and stand in her home. I knew this would be a wonderful experience - but I never imagined it would be like this. What a joy and privilege it was to be a part of something so powerful."
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